Industrial Magic (Women of the Otherworld, book 4), by Kelley Armstrong

This, men’s health Armstrong’s fourth entry in the series, is the second to have Paige Winterbourne, witch, as the narrator. According to Armstrong’s website, Warner Bros. did not renew their option on Bitten, so no movie yet. She is still a resident of Canada; she possesses three children (or perhaps they possess her); and has studied both psychology and computer programming. Currently she is lucky enough to be a full-time writer.

Due to the fact that this book is set right after the previous one, I’m going to cut all plot discussion. When we last left Paige Winterbourne, she’d retained custody of Savannah (Nast) Levine and acquired a sorcerer boyfriend, Lucas Cortez. Industrial Magic starts in Paige, Lucas, and Savannah’s new living situation, in Portland. Benicio Cortez, Lucas’s father, drops by to visit. He’s got a habit of offering Lucas cases to represent or solve, and this situation is no different. A daughter of one of his employees was attacked and is now in a coma. This time, though, he’s sure he’ll have Paige on his side: the victim is a witch.

Reluctantly, they take the case, and then realize that it’s a pattern: someone is attacking and trying to kill the children of Cabal (sorcerer family businesses) employees . . . starting with lower levels and heading up to the CEOs.

This book expands on many of the threads from the previous. We are treated to an inside look at the cabals, and their many half-demon employees. We meet a necromancer — one who isn’t particularly evil, either. We see ghosts, vampires, witch and sorcerer magic, a clairvoyant, and even the afterlife. Armstrong’s worldbuilding is wonderful and ever-expansive, and marvelously coherent. I wasn’t expecting the glimpse into the afterlife at all, and I enjoyed it.

The cabals are a lot like the Mafia — they’re even compared in a previous book — down to the benefits for employees and the head left in someone’s bed. Lucas’s rebellion is likened to Michael Corleone, and the whole situation still worries Paige some. The different cabals fight between them, and it drags down the quality of their investigation — hence Paige and Lucas’s involvement.

I like that Paige is a computer programmer. Since learning that Armstrong herself had studied and worked in the field, Paige’s abilities make more sense. Not that I necessarily think that every single book should be a platform for preaching, but I do enjoy it when non-traditional jobs are held by women. The computer industry is still so male-dominated that Paige’s skills probably are a bit unexpected for many readers.

Lucas’s speech patterns calm down a little bit from the previous book; he’s a lot more comprehensible, but I assumed that was because the overly formal speech was a sign of lack of comfort in one’s surroundings. Some people stutter, others obfuscate. Jaime Vegas is my favorite new character in this book; she’s the non-evil necromancer who works as a TV pseudo-medium for a living. (She can contact the dead, but why bother when you can make educated guesses?) She’s loud, brash, happy to drink cheap beer in a dive bar, fond of Cuban food, and over 40 — in other words, a definite contrast with twenty-three-year-old Paige. Elena, Clay, and Jeremy (the werewolves from the first two books) make appearances, and there were new flavors of half-demon to add to the mixture.

The plot, again, is tightly paced and very exciting. There were turns involving the identity of the killer that I hadn’t quite suspected. One of them, perhaps, seemed a little abrupt (involving the specific identity of the killer), but it was forgivable. The sex was somewhat less graphic than the previous, but there was a little more violence. These are still adult books, based on those two elements (not, say, based on the depth of economic analysis). I’d definitely continue recommending this series to fans of Hamilton’s Anita Blake or Harrison’s Rachel Morgan. It’s better-written than the former (especially the recent books), a little more straightforward than the latter, but shares elements of both (specifically murders, supernatural beings, mismatched relationships, fast-paced plots). Paige perhaps kicks a little less physical butt than Anita or Rachel, but she’s surrounded by just as much danger and almost as many hot men. Industrial Magic gets 4/5 stars.

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